A commentary by Cathy Stepp, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
As Wisconsin weighs the Department of Natural Resources' proposal for a wolf hunting season, here's some important background to keep in mind.
A wolf hunting season was directed by the Wisconsin Legislature to start this year; it is the law of the land.
DNR's task is to develop - before fall - an interim hunting season framework that considers the needs and desires of diverse interest groups.
• Must satisfy the legislative directive;
• Must be conservative enough to protect wolves - which only this year were removed from the federal Endangered Species List in Wisconsin and our neighboring states;
• Must respect the reverence Native American Tribes have for wolves;
• Must meet the expectations of hunters and the needs of farmers, who have been suffering from long unchecked wolf depredation on their livestock; and
• the season must be logical and balanced for the general population, which often sees wolves as symbolic of the wild and healthy ecosystems they value.
It's a narrow path to walk.
Our proposed first season harvest goal is admittedly conservative.
Why? We manage natural resources based on science and data. We have no experience yet in Wisconsin with a wolf hunting season. Other states also have limited experience and therefore limited counsel.
We can estimate hunter success and wolf numbers, but additional data from the first few seasons will help assure we achieve a balance of hunting with maintaining wolves as part of our ecosystems.
The 2012 wolf hunting season proposal is a temporary framework, known as an emergency rule.
Over the next two years, DNR will be working with the many groups that have an interest in the season to develop a more permanent hunting framework.
What we learn from early seasons - and more importantly, what we learn from you, the public, about your expectations for that season - will inform our decisions.
Individuals can learn more about DNR's 2012 wolf hunting season proposal by going to the DNR website [dnr.wi.gov]
and searching for "wolf."
There visitors will also find a survey in which they can share their views.
The department will present final recommendations for Wisconsin's first modern wolf season for Natural Resources Board approval on July 17. If the Board approves the proposal, license applications will probably be available around Aug. 1.
There are many, often passionate, interests in setting a wolf hunting season in Wisconsin. We ask that you work with us and consider those diverse interests and expectations to help us arrive at a season we can all be comfortable with.
We want to get this right. We have to.